10 steps to prep for an impending hurricane

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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We all know how devastating hurricanes can be. The impact of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina is still very much felt today. Each hurricane season brings its own set of human, environmental and financial consequences.

And this year, the hurricane season is predicted to be particularly active. If you live in a high-risk hurricane area, it’s natural to feel anxious or uncertain as hurricane season nears.

We’ve provided some steps to help you feel informed and empowered to weather the storm.

1. How to know if you're at risk

First, determine if you’re in an area that is susceptible to tropical storms by doing some quick online research or checking your local weather sites. This is particularly important if you've moved to a new house in a new neighborhood as even close by locations can have different hurricane and flood risks based on a number of factors. 

From there, see if you’re in what’s considered a hurricane evacuation area by contacting your local government or emergency management office or by visiting the evacuation site website.[1] Also, online hazard and vulnerability assessment tools are available for information gathering.[2]

By understanding your risk, you’ll have a better idea of how to stay safe during storm season.  


2. Learn where to get up-to-date info on a hurricane's progress

Meteorologists usually can predict a hurricane’s path three to five days in advance. Once a hurricane hits, conditions last an average of 12 to 18 hours, but up to 24 for slow-moving ones.[3]

Hurricanes can be deceiving. The day before a hurricane it could be sunny – without a cloud in the sky. That’s why you must pay close attention to weather reports, specifically from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio or warnings from local authorities, so you’re up to speed on all hurricane happenings.[4]

3. Prepare your emergency kit

There are some basic things you should do when a hurricane is on the horizon.

If you haven’t already, put together an emergency kit now is a good time. If you do have an emergency kit already, check to make sure no items are expired or need to be updated. 

Here are some ideas of what to include:


  • Water: At least one gallon of water per person per day.

  • Food: Non-perishable food items such as canned goods, protein bars, dried fruits and nuts. Include a manual can opener.

  • First aid kit: Bandages, antiseptics, gauze, adhesive tape, scissors, tweezers and any necessary personal medical items.

  • Tools and supplies: Multi-tool or Swiss Army knife, whistle to signal for help, plastic sheeting and duct tape in case you need to cover windows.

  • Flashlight with extra batteries: You can also consider battery lanterns or flashlights you can crank to power.  

  • Personal hygiene items: Soap, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, moist towelettes and feminine hygiene products.



4. Make your evacuation plan

Consider where you’ll go if you need to evacuate. Options include a hotel, a family or friend’s home or an evacuation shelter. If you have time, practice your evacuation plan to avoid any confusion if and when a quick exit must happen.

Part of your pre-planning should include thinking through any medical needs of you or your family members. Take stock of any medication or special equipment that should come with you in the event of an evacuation, and have that list easily accessible. Additionally, mentally plan for how you’ll evacuate family members with mobility issues to prevent any panic during a real event.  

In addition, find the appropriate online NOAA radio station and pay close attention to updates to know when it's time to evacuate.[5]

What should I do in the event of an evacuation?

If you’ve been ordered to evacuate, give yourself enough time to pack the essentials and let your friends and family know you’re leaving home. Listen to – and follow – instructions by local officials – don’t assume you can ride out a storm just because you’ve prepared your home.

5. Get your house ready for the storm

Regardless of whether or not you end up evacuating or staying put, you want your home to be as safe and protected as possible. Here are some tasks to accomplish this:

  • Trim trees on your property so fewer dead or unhealthy branches can become projectiles.
  • Remove debris from drains and drain pipes.
  • Board up windows to protect them from flying debris.
  • Bring loose outdoor items such as patio furniture inside.
  • Secure all doors – including the garage.
  • Move your car inside a garage or to another safe location.


6. Secure documents

After you've made sure the outside of your home is strengthened, it's time to take stock of what's in your home that you need to keep safe.

Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a safe-deposit box, which will decrease the chance they’ll get damaged during a hurricane or a resulting flood. Also consider taking pictures of important documents on your phone as a backup in case something does happen.  

7. Gather supplies

Your emergency kit should have some of what you need, but you will also want to make sure you have additional things ready in advance of a storm. Make sure your gas tanks are full in any vehicles, so you're ready to go in case an evacuation is needed.

You also want to make sure all phones are charged, in case the power goes out. Consider investing in an external battery charging dock that you can also charge in advance of the storm. 

Next, make sure you have plenty of any necessary prescription medicines, in case you're unable to get more during and immediately after the storm. You should also gather any speciality items you needs, such as supplies for infants, elderly family members or pets, including baby formula, diapers and pet food.


8. Shelter in place

Depending on where you’re located and the severity of the storm, you may not be required to evacuate. You may still choose to, but if you don’t want to leave, or don’t have the means to, you can take steps to stay safe at home.

When the storm is about to hit, move to a small interior room on the lowest level of your home, such as a closet or hallway. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible, and stay away from windows, skylights or glass doors. When the eye of the storm passes over, it may seem as though you’re out of the woods, but hang tight inside your home because hurricane force winds will be coming from the opposite direction.

Also, tornadoes can sometimes form after hurricanes, so continue listening to weather reports and updates from your local officials before leaving safety.

9. Understand your insurance policies

Do you need special insurance to cover hurricane damage? This is a good question to consider prior to any potential hurricanes, so you have one less thing to worry about during the often-confusing post-hurricane period.

There isn’t actually hurricane insurance, but parts of your homeowners policy may cover damage related to hurricanes. Damage from a hurricane is usually caused by what’s known as “covered perils.” Your personal property coverage may depend on your individual plan, while other structures are typically covered up to 10% of the primary dwelling limit. 

However, if the damage was the result of flooding, and you don’t have special flood insurance, then you could run into problems. What’s more, if you live in a high-risk area, insurance companies might limit or withhold wind damage coverage. If it’s not included as part of your home insurance policy, you can seek out a special endorsement. Reach out to your insurer for more details if you’re unsure what’s in your policy. And, while you’ve got them there, ask about additional living expense coverage: If you’re forced from your home due to a covered peril, your insurer may pay some of the expenses you incur from being displaced.

What about car insurance?

If you have comprehensive coverage, your car insurance will cover hurricane damage, but that’s only if you have that coverage in advance of a hurricane’s arrival. That’s because insurers often restrict new policies and coverage changes leading up to and during storms.

10. After the storm

Recovery from any type of natural disaster is a gradual process, and hurricanes are no exception. It’s going to take time to get back to normal, especially if you’ve experienced damage or displacement. So, be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and your community. Find a list of post-hurricane resources at FEMA.[6]

  1. Understanding evacuation zones. [Flash.org]

  2. Hurricane prep. [NOAA]

  3. Everything you need to know about hurricanes. [ABC News]

  4. Hurricane tracking center. [NOAA]

  5. NOAA Weather radio stations. [WeatherUSA]

  6. FEMA assistance. [FEMA]